Mauritania: Nameless Humans

“I am a land like any other land but a land that heard people on me speaking different languages. And in several events a language substituted a language and put it to extinction. I saw people from different races living on me in peace and in war. I saw them tolerating each other and I saw them killing each other in cold blood.”

I really like the introduction to Angels of Mauritania and the Curse of the Language by Mohamed Bouya Bamba. I like the idea that a country tells its story. Every country would have millions of stories to tell. I did not know much about Mauritania before I read the book. I feel like I learned a lot, but I also feel like some magic and mystery of (for me) exotic Africa was lost with this book.

Mauritania has not much of a written tradition, but I believe the oral story telling is living strong. Mauritania is still a poor country, with several different ethnicities and many languages spoken. These facts were lost in the story filled with iPhones and things like ‘wanting to marry a man who lives in America’. Although I appreciate it that countries with one or a few books translated into the English is not about mysticism, spirits and symbolism nowadays I expect and want to read about these subjects.

What I did not care for in the book was that no names were used. He, the young man, the passenger, her husband… Not memorable characters because they lacked names. “The woman asked her sister about him and what his job was. Her sister said that he worked in America but she did not know exactly what he was doing in America. She said that he told his wife that he just worked there. He told her that he worked in different American cities especially New York City.”

I was delighted to find a book online from Mauritania. I wonder why it seems to be common that a country with one or two books seem to have problems with editing and proofreading. I would think it would be important to concentrate on the books until the end, focusing on the finishing touches. This is a short book, a fast read, and if reading a book from Mauritania is on the agenda this is probably the only choice, but otherwise it might not really be worth a read.

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